George at Asda launches schoolwear for children with specific needs such as Autism
George at Asda has become the first supermarket retailer in the UK to offer clothing especially designed for children with specific or sensory-sensitive needs such as autism, through its Easy On Easy Wear range.
Research from George has shown that the move is sorely needed – eight in 10 parents (79%) of children with specific needs say that it is difficult to get their children dressed every day.
As such, nine in 10 (89%) say they have become ‘distressed or upset’ trying to dress their children or watching them try to dress themselves, with nearly half (45%) saying this is the case ‘most or every day’.
Similarly, 90% say their children themselves often get distressed whilst trying to get dressed.
The research found that it takes nearly twice as long (88% longer) for children with specific needs to get dressed.
This is due to clothing being designed with neuro-typical children in mind – for example with tight necklines, hard to do up buttons or non-elasticated cuffs – that is not always suitable for children with conditions such as autism.
Looking specifically at autism, diagnoses are on the rise and it is estimated that approximately one in every 100 children in the UK has autism. In addition, it is thought that for every three children with a diagnosis, there are another two who have the condition but have not been given a formal diagnosis.
Tom Purser, Head of Campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: “It's great to hear that George at Asda will be developing autism-friendly clothing for children. Parents often tell us how sensory sensitivities can mean that autistic children struggle with clothing, like an itchy label, a scratchy seam or an uncomfortable fabric.
“Finding clothing their children can wear can make shopping for clothes time consuming and stressful.
"Many parents have to scour specialist shops for everyday items that other families are able to buy easily. So, it makes a real difference when a major retailer takes this on. Simple changes like removing a scratchy label make an enormous difference.
"Around one in a hundred children are autistic in the UK – that’s around 120,000 school-age children - and they deserve to have the same choices as everyone else. We hope that even more retailers will come up with similar ideas, and do their bit to help create a society that works for autistic people.”
The research found that on average, parents of children with specific needs have to buy twice as many clothes in the search for suitable items – 94% more. They almost unanimously agree (97%) that more high street and affordable clothing brands should offer clothing ranges designed for children with specific needs.
Six in 10 parents say that regular clothing is simply not suitable for special needs children. And whilst 81% have tried clothing made with specific-needs children in mind, 38% say there are not many options, and 28% say they are too expensive.
The elements of non-specially designed clothes that cause the most issues for children with specific needs are itchy labels (38%), clothes that are hard to get on and off (38%), uncomfortable materials (34%) and seams that irritate them (31%).
All of these issues are addressed in the new Easy On Easy Wear range from George - for example, fiddly buttons have been replaced with easy close fastenings (although mock buttons ensure they look just like the regular range).
Meanwhile, all the clothing has softer thread used on the seams and care instructions are printed on the fabric rather than using labels. Elasticated waistbands make trousers easy to put on, and ensure they are extra-comfortable.
Singer, actor and long-time autism awareness campaigner Keith Duffy said: “I know first-hand just how difficult it can be to find clothes that children with specific needs are happy and comfortable in.
"Not only do they want to feel physically comfortable but they also don't want to look or feel different from their friends when having to wear specially adapted clothes.
"There are more children with specific needs than you might think and yet there are not enough options to clothe them, which is why I think George’s new Easy On Easy Wear range will be a lifeline to parents up and down the country, helping their children to feel independent and just like everybody else."
Caroline Hicks, Head of Schoolwear at George, said: “We’re very proud to be the first supermarket retailer in the UK to offer clothing especially for children with specific needs. We have undertaken extensive research with customers and charities to ensure our clothing is suitable for them.
“Our main goal was to create clothing that allows independent dressing and that is more comfortable, thus addressing some of the challenges with clothing not designed for specific needs children.
"Seventy-one per cent of children with autism attend mainstream schools. We know that these children want to look the same as their peers, so we have designed the range to look just like the rest of the school clothing we offer. The collection also comes with all the great quality, value and sustainability that you expect from the main range – and all at the same price too!
“We were talking as a business about how we support a wider range of customers and deliver clothing to meet those needs. Alongside this, we had also received a few letters from customers asking us how we could support their needs, focussed around independence and easy to wear clothing.
"These customers supported us as we developed the range, and have given us incredibly valuable feedback along the way.”
The Easy On Easy Wear range was launched by George on April 6and is available nationwide via its website at www.george.com